Sunday, January 29, 2017
I came across the above video in which the Evangelical theologians John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul debate on the subject of infant baptism—R.C. arguing for, and John arguing against. As a Mormon I of course oppose infant baptism; but the subject of infant baptism itself is not what led me to comment on this video, but a side issue raised by John MacArthur as he argued his case against infant baptism. At 18:30 minutes into the video he makes the following comment (emphasis added):
“In Matthew chapter 18 we read in verse 3, ‘Truly I say to you unless you are converted and become like children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven; whoever then humbles himself as this child he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven; whoever receives one such child on the ground of my name receives me;’ and you know the text. And some have said, well, what you have here is evidence that children are in the kingdom. I beg to differ with that. I think what you have here, if you put the synoptics together and see the scene, Peter is in Capernaum, he may well be in his own house there, and he has in his lap an infant. He picks up a little child because the disciples are debating who is the greatest in the kingdom, . . . He puts a little baby in his lap and says, Look, while you’re arguing about who is the greatest, let’s get the real issue, you are all little children. Verse 2 says he called a child, set him in the midst and said, ‘You better become like this if you want to enter the kingdom.’ And then he proceeds to preach a great sermon; I think one of the great discourses in Matthew on the childlikeness of the believer. And in this chapter he is not talking about babies; he is talking about childlike believers; and that is pretty clear I think all the way through because he refers in verse 6 particularly to ‘these little ones who believe in me’. He is talking about how we treat each other as believers. So this is not a scripture that deals with anything to do with actual children and their role in the kingdom, but rather using a child as an illustration of the necessity of entering his kingdom as a child would. What does that mean? With no achievement, with no accomplishment, having done nothing learned nothing, gained nothing, accumulated nothing, bringing nothing, to bear upon that entrance.”
His argument is that Matthew 18:1–5 does not make a statement about the salvation of little children as such, but only provides an illustration for the childlikeness of the believers. He makes several errors in that observation. Firstly, Jesus does not say that believers are childlike, but must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. He says they must humble themselves as little children to be saved, or enter the kingdom of heaven. It is not about how we “treat each other,” but how we approach God. Secondly, he is incorrect that the statement is not about actual children. It is about actual children and their salvation. Jesus makes it clear in more than one place in the New Testament that little children are indeed saved:
14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
16 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
There is no doubt that Jesus believed and taught that little children are saved. Jesus’ message to his disciples in Matthew 18:1–5 was that to be saved they needed to acquire the same attributes and qualities that little children have, i.e. purity, innocence, humility, faith, implicit trust, and willingness to obey. Children believe in him (Matt. 18:6). They have a natural tendency to believe. If you tell the story of Jesus to a child—any child who has not heard it before (and has not been indoctrinated against it), they will believe. John MacArthur is very much in error about that, and his error is a serious one. It has serious implications for many other aspects of his theology. If little children are not already saved, what happens to them when they die? Do they go to hell when they die? If they don’t, that means that they are already saved; and if they are already saved, what saves them? And how does “predestination” fit into all of this, or the “original sin”?
That in fact is the real explanation why little children don’t need baptism, because they are already saved. They have nothing to “repent of”. Baptism is “unto repentance” and “for the remission of sins” (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 2:38). If they have nothing to repent of, they don’t need to be baptized. All others need to be baptized, as shown in the following verses:
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not [and consequently not baptized] shall be damned.
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
• • •
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
1 Peter 3:
21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
Baptism is a necessary requirement for salvation, no doubts about it. That is what the scriptures teach. I don’t know of anyone in the New Testament who was converted and was not baptized—with the exception of little children. Everyone needs to be baptized to be saved. Only little children are exempt, because they are already saved. That puts a big dent into the “faith alone” doctrine of Reformed and Evangelical theology. If baptism is necessary for salvation, then it is not “faith alone”.
I am sure they will now say, “We are not saved by baptism!” Sure we are not. Nobody says we are. But we are not saved without baptism either! That is what the Bible teaches. To say that baptism is required for salvation is not the same as saying that we are “saved by baptism,” or that we are “saved by our own works”. We are saved by God when we do what he says; and one of the things he says is that we need be baptized.
Obedience to God’s commandments, or doing what God says, is not the same thing as “works”. Many of God’s commandments in fact involves not doing something, rather than doing anything in particular. “Thou shalt not kill” does not involve “doing” anything, or any kind of “work”. There is a lot more “work” involved in going out and killing somebody, than sitting at home doing nothing. It is about obeying God, not doing some kind of “work” for salvation. “Faith alone” is shot through. It is dead in the water. It is not the gospel that Jesus taught.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
“Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind dying, came to a transmigrated life.”
So said the famed historian Will Durant; and a lot of Mormons seem to agree! The writings of Will Durant have held considerable fascination for some LDS writers and speakers in the past, and some older generation LDS especially have tended to reference him with admiration and approval. The Latest example from a prominent LDS is the following quote from Elder Quentin L Cook, in his October 2016 General Conference address titled, “Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus”:
“We know the Apostasy occurred in part because the philosophies of men were elevated over Christ’s basic, essential doctrine. Instead of the simplicity of the Savior’s message being taught, many plain and precious truths were changed or lost. In fact, Christianity adopted some Greek philosophical traditions to reconcile people’s beliefs with their existing culture. The historian Will Durant wrote: “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated life.”* Historically, and in our own day, some people reject the gospel of Jesus Christ because, in their view, it doesn’t have adequate intellectual sophistication.” (*Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol. 3, Caesar and Christ (1944), 595.)
That quote from Will Durant is given out of context. The context of it is as follows:
“Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the Church; . . . From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity, the Last Judgement, and a personal immortality of reward and punishment; . . . from Syria [came] the resurrection drama of Adonis; from Thrace, perhaps [from] the cult of Dionysus, [came] the dying and saving god. From Persia came millenarianism, the ‘ages of the world,’ the ‘final conflagration,’ the dualism of Satan and God, of Darkness and Light. Already in the fourth Gospel Christ is the ‘Light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.’ . . . Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world.” (Will and Ariel Durant, The Story of Civilization)
In this passage Will Durant is questioning the most fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, including those of Mormonism. He is undermining the following fundamental doctrines of Christianity—including LDS doctrine—attributing them all paganism:
1. The Trinity or Godhead (including how it is understood by Latter-day Saints).
2. The last judgement.
3. The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
4. The resurrection of all mankind, followed by a judgement.
5. The Atonement and Redemption of Jesus Christ.
6. The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
7. Millenarianism (i.e. the millennial ages of the world, as in Rev. 20:2–7; D&C 77:6–12; 88:101–110).
8. The duality of Satan and God.
9. The separation of light and darkness as taught in the Gospel of John (John 1:5; 3:19; 8:12; 12:35, 46; 1 John 1:5; 2:8–9).
10. Of Jesus being the “light that shins in darkness, . . .” (John 1:5; also Matt. 4:16; Luke 1:79; John 8:12).
When Durant condemns Christianity for adopting paganism, he is referring to all of the above. He is saying that all the above doctrines came from paganism and the religious philosophies of Egypt, Syria, Thrace, Persia; and from the cult of Dionysus, and the resurrection drama of Adonis etc.—and Elder Cook apparently agrees!
Will Durant believed that the Apostles Paul and John were influenced by pagan philosophies of the day. Here is a quote:
“Mithraism, Neoplatonism, Stoicism, Cynicism, and the local cults of municipal or rustic gods . . . these mystic ideas left their mark on the apostles Paul and John.” (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, The Age Of Faith, ch 1, p 9)
In another part of his talk Elder Cook makes the following remarks:
“The Apostle Paul was a sure witness of Jesus Christ because of a miraculous and life-changing experience with the Savior. Paul’s unique background prepared him to relate to people of many cultures. He loved the ‘frank simplicity’ of the Thessalonians and the ‘tender sympathy’ of the Philippians. He initially found it more difficult to relate to the intellectual and sophisticated Greeks. In Athens on Mars’ Hill, he attempted a philosophical approach and was rejected. To the Corinthians he determined to simply teach ‘the doctrine of Christ crucified.’ To use the Apostle Paul’s own words:
“‘And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
“‘That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.’”
In this passage Elder Cook shows considerable lack of insight in the scriptures and into the words of Paul that he is commenting on. None of his observations in that statement are correct. Paul did not “attempt a philosophical approach” at Athens. On the contrary, to the philosophers at Mars Hill he spoke by the power of the Holy Ghost, and preached one of the greatest inspired sermons recorded in the New Testament—but he spoke to them in a language that was suited to his audience.
Paul did not “find it more difficult to relate to the intellectual and sophisticated Greeks,” nor was his comment to the Corinthians intended to be such an acknowledgement. Paul made himself “all things to all men” to gain as many as he could (1 Cor. 9:19-23). To the Jews he became a Jew, to the Greeks he became a Greek. To the weak he became weak, and to the strong he became strong. To the philosophers he became a philosopher, and to simple people he became simple. It does not mean that his approach to the Greeks was therefore a mistake and he was now determined to do better; or that his approach to the philosophers was a cause for regret and he was now minded to do differently.
In these statements, and in his endorsement of Will Durant Elder Cook displays considerable lack of insight into the scriptures and into divine truth. I put it down to his lack of experience as a new Apostle. Hopefully as he gains more experience he will learn to do better in the future.